Beth Howard, Op-Ed for the Boston Globe
My beloved Eastern Kentucky has been ravaged by floods that have killed at least 37 people, destroyed homes and businesses, and left entire communities in ruins. In the midst of chaos and mudslides, let me be crystal clear: There is nothing natural about this disaster.
This devastation is the direct result of climate change: Hundred-year floods are now occurring on a yearly basis in Kentucky. Children have been washed away from their parents because decades of extractive coal mining in Appalachia has stripped topsoil off our mountains, leaving rainfall with nowhere to naturally drain. Elderly people are waiting in rising waters, praying to be rescued, because infrastructure in this entire region has been left to rot. People are going without their insulin and medications because for generations, corporations have been stealing our labor, our land, and our lives.
As the waters continued to rise, so did the vitriol coming our way on social media. Many people, many of whom claim to be progressive, are laying the blame for this situation at our feet — even suggesting that we deserve it — “These people got what they voted for.” “It’s so sad so many people there don’t even believe in climate change and don’t want any sustainable energy.” “The reps they overwhelmingly elected routinely vote against aid when disasters hit blue states … At some point, compassion fatigue sets in.”
So my people know there’s no hate in our hollers. We got each other no matter what. We can show up for each other and reject the lies that white nationalists militia groups try to pass off in exchange for water and sandwiches. Democrats, especially white Democrats: Stay on your phone, but log off Twitter. Call us. Connect with us. Join an organization that’s actually engaging with working-class people in Appalachia and the South. Give a damn about us. We know solidarity as a practice and, to survive the climate and political crises we are faced with, we need solidarity as a practice at a grand scale.